I have a few papers examining processes related to intergenerational educational stratification and related disparities in educational attainment.
Diaz, Christina J., and Jeremy E. Fiel (2016). “The Effect(s) of Teen Pregnancy: Reconciling Theory, Methods, and Findings.” Demography 53(1):85-116.
Although teenage mothers have lower educational attainment and earnings than women who delay fertility, causal interpretations of this relationship remain controversial. Scholars argue that there are reasons to predict negative, trivial, or even positive effects, and different methodological approaches provide some support for each perspective. We reconcile this ongoing debate by drawing on two heuristics: (1) each methodological strategy emphasizes different women in estimation procedures, and (2) the effects of teenage fertility likely vary in the population. Analyses of the Child and Young Adult Cohorts of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (N = 3,661) confirm that teen pregnancy has negative effects on most women’s attainment and earnings. More striking, however, is that effects on college completion and early earnings vary considerably and are most pronounced among those least likely to experience an early pregnancy. Further analyses suggest that teen pregnancy is particularly harmful for those with the brightest socioeconomic prospects and who are least prepared for the transition to motherhood.
Fiel, Jeremy E. (2019). “The Transmission of Multigenerational Educational Inequality.” Social Forces 97(4):1455-1486.
This study (pre-print version, supplement) explores the transmission of educational inequality across three generations in the United States. It addresses two common problems in analyses of multigenerational inequality: omitted mechanisms of indirect transmissions through grandparents’ early influences on parents, and theoretically problematic tests of direct effects based on non-zero residual grandparent-child associations. The first problem leads to upwardly biased direct effect estimates; analyses that control for parents’ attributes and experiences during their own childhood eliminate most grandparent-child educational associations. Conversely, the second problem can obscure direct effects. This study avoids inferring direct effects from residual grandparent-child associations by assessing the explanatory power of measured child attributes that constitute likely mechanisms of direct effects. It finds little evidence of direct effects overall, although there is some indication of direct effects on bachelor’s degree attainment among those with the most-educated grandparents. The findings also speak to potential mechanisms of direct and indirect educational transmission.